Vigilance urged vs hate crimes on Filipinos, Asians and Pacific Islanders

IN NEW YORK. Philippine Consul General Elmer Cato (standing, second from right) in a file photo joining a rally against hate crimes on Filipinos and Asian, Pacific Islander Americans in New York. He asks Filipinos to continue to be alert and vigilant.

By Claire Morales True
NEW YORK – The Philippine Consulate General in New York has advised members of the Filipino community in New York City  and neighboring areas to remain vigilant following separate successive attacks against their countrymen this month.
Potri Ranka Manis, a Filipino nurse and founder of the dance theater company Kinding Sindaw, was assaulted  while distributing face masks to fellow passengers on board the subway.
“Marami namang natutuwa sa mga binibigyan ko except for this recent incident. Umupo sila sa tabi ko, wala nang social distancing sa subway. Binigyan ko ng mask at bigla siyang tumayo, mag-asawa sila na merong anak na nasa stroller. Biglang tumayo ‘yung lalaki, hinablot ‘yung envelope na may mask sa kamay ko at itinapon at sumigaw-sigaw sa akin. ‘Mind your own business Chink. Get out of this train, you Chinese, go back home to your dirty country’,” she recalled.

The man was about to take her bag where she kept the masks but a fellow passenger managed to hold and pacify him. But the man’s wife stood up and proceeded to physically attack the Pinay nurse.

“Nakakalungkot pati sumisigaw na ako ng tulong, walang tumulong. Tapos nung nag-stop na ‘yung train, nagbukas na ‘yung door, pine-press ko ‘yung emergency button ng subway tatawag ng emergency health tapos kinuha ko phone ko sa bag para tatawag ako ng 911 hinablot ng lalaki ‘yung phone, itinakbo. Hate crime na, theft pa,” she said.

“After I was assaulted in the subway natatakot na akong maglakad at iniisip ko baka bugbugin ako (I was afraid to take a walk out of fear of being assaulted again),” she said.

Filipinos are among the top nationalities who have experienced abuses or hate crimes in the United States, a recent report by an anti-Asian racism coalition  Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) showed.

Philippine Consul General Elmer Cato, in a statement at a press conference, said: “The assault on Potri Ranka Manis, a 67-year-old health frontliner while she was distributing face masks on the E train is particularly disturbing for us considering that she was assaulted while doing what other frontliners have been doing since the outbreak of the pandemic—help save lives by preventing the spread of the coronavirus.”

“The incident involving Potri Manis is heartbreaking for the Filipino-American Community especially since it involved an elderly Filipino nurse who has been among the hundreds of Filipino nurses who have been helping save people from Covid-19 in New York City and elsewhere,” Cato said. “It is heartbreaking because although Filipinos account for only 4 percent of the total number of nurses in the United States, they account for 25 percent of frontliners who have died as result of Covid-19.”

“But it is not only Potri Manis who has been at the receiving end of anti-Asian hate. One of our diplomats was harassed while on board the B train by what she described to be a mentally unstable individual who was telling her she does not belong here,” Cato said. “Just a few days before Potri was assaulted, Filipino theater actor Miguel Braganza was badly hurt in a robbery attempt with racist undertones.”

“The Philippine Consulate General has recorded at least 18 cases of hate crimes and hate incidents involving members of the Filipino-American Community since January. There are more cases but unfortunately these are not being reported,” he sasid.

“We would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our calls for authorities to do what is necessary to identify, arrest, and bring to justice those responsible for the attack against Potri and other victims of anti-Asian hate,” Cato said.

“We acknowledge and support the efforts of authorities of New York City in assuring everyone that steps are being taken to make them feel safe in public. We welcome the announcement of Senator Schumer that Congress is working to make several billions dollars available to address mental health issues,” he added.

“We are also in solidarity with the rest of the Asian-American Community and all others in calling for an end to hatred, intolerance and bigotry,” the Philippine official said.

The AAPI report dated August 12 showed that Chinese reported more hate incidents (43.5%) than all ethnic groups from March 19, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Following Chinese nationals were Koreans with 16.8%, Filipinos with 9.1%, Japanese with 8.6%, and Vietnamese with 8.2%.

Reports gathered by the Philippine Consulate General indicated that the two assailants shouted racial slurs while she was being attacked.

On August 7, Filipino stage actor Miguel Braganza was also assaulted by two individuals while on his way to his apartment in the Upper West Side.

Braganza was struck with a gun to the forehead in what police said was a failed robbery attempt.

“Just when we thought that violence inflicted on our kababayan (countrymen) here in New York had died down, two more incidents in the past week again underscored the need for members of the Filipino community to remain vigilant,” Consul General Cato said in an earlier statement.

Cato called on New York City authorities to take the necessary actions and make sure that those behind the attacks are arrested and brought to court.

He also called for increased police visibility in the city, particularly in the subway.

Cato reminded Filipinos in the city to be alert, especially when taking mass transport, and call 911 or the Consulate immediately in case they encounter similar situations.

Cato said the surge behind the hate crimes can be linked to blaming Asians for the coronavirus outbreak.

“Since the virus originated in Asia, some people are blaming Asians for the outbreak,” said Cato.

The Philippine Consulate General in New York had recorded at least 18 cases of hate crimes against Filipinos in 2021.

Deputy Speaker Zia Alonto Adiong of the Bangsamoro Parliament, in a statement, said the attack on his fellow Maranao “is a symptom of yet another disease called racism, and the pandemic has only made this deeply rooted problem of hate and discrimination more apparent”.

“Nurses with roots in the Philippines are especially vulnerable as they make up the largest share of migrant nurses in the United States,” he said.

The non-profit Kinding Sindaw aims to assert, preserve, reclaim, and recreate the cultures and traditions of Mindanao.